Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir takes break for fundraiser
WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — How dedicated is Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir to his hometown training rink, The Skating Club of Wilmington?
When the Delaware resident was recently cast in a new Netflix ice skating drama called “Spinning Out,” he was to be in Canada filming the show’s first season next weekend when the skating club hosts its annual fundraiser.
But he “pushed hard” to be able to escape for the benefit and will perform on the second night of the two-day “America Skates: Spring Ice Show” on April 5 and 6.
“I’m jumping right off a plane to help raise money for this historic rink,” Weir, 34, who recently purchased a new home in Greenville, told The News Journal.
Weir has been an honorary member of the skating club for more than a decade and has been training there in recent years “whenever I’m not running around the world,” says Weir, a lead NBC Sports figure skating analyst.
“They have been so accommodating with my schedule and make it possible even for me to train in the middle of the night,” says Weir, a two-time Olympian and three-time U.S. national champion, who won the bronze medal at World Figure Skating Championships in 2008.
The skating club, which first opened in 1964, will host about 170 performers across the two-night event, including special celebrity guest skaters, such as Weir.
Pairs team Audrey Lu and Misha Mitrofanov and skater Ting Cui are also scheduled to perform.
Both shows are at 7 p.m. and each cost $25-$70 (adults), $15 (teens 13-19) and $10 (children 12 and younger). Tickets can be purchased at skatewilm.com.
The show’s artistic director, former Olympic ice dancer Irina Romanova, says the annual benefit is integral to the club’s ability to survive as a unique member-owned and operated entity.
“It’s the No. 1 fundraiser for the club,” she says. “I’m kind of dying every year doing this, but I know I cannot give it up because without it we wouldn’t be able to have our next show.”
Weir has twice before performed at the skating club’s spring fundraiser and says he’s dedicated to its livelihood: “It’s important for me that skaters across the country, even in small states like Delaware, know that they can achieve their dreams just like I did. Coming from the greater Philadelphia area, it is especially important to me to support local rinks and to keep skating alive in our community.”
While Weir has been busily preparing two new numbers for an upcoming tour in Japan at the club in recent months, fans won’t be seeing those on April 6.
Instead, Weir says, “I’ll be pulling out an old fan favorite that I hope makes the audience smile.”
Over the years, Weir has parlayed his figure skating career into the entertainment and fashion careers, becoming a bona fide celebrity thanks to his lovable, outgoing personality and head-turning style.
His longevity shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, it was a dozen years ago when the Will Ferrell ice skating comedy “Blades of Glory” featured a character partially inspired by Weir.
He also starred in his own reality series, “Be Good Johnny Weir,” which aired on Sundance TV back in 2010.
Weir will join co-stars Kaya Scodelario and January Jones on “Spinning Out,” which was first announced in October with Weir being added to the cast two months later.
He says he’s had an incredible experience so far: “I never had the acting bug before, but now that I’m actually doing it and living that life, I really enjoy it.”
It won’t be Weir’s first time acting. In fact, Weir landed on an episode of the Fox animated comedy “Family Guy” just four months ago.
In the Olympics-themed episode, both he and fellow NBC figure skating analyst Tara Lipinski appear, playing themselves.
On the episode, the openly gay skater pokes fun at both at his sexuality and fashion choices.
In one scene, he is seen picking trash off the ground, sticking it to his outfit and proclaiming, “Now it’s clothes!”
In another scene, he wears a comically over-sized hat and reveals that he’s not actually gay to Stewie, the show’s talking baby. In fact, Weir tells him had been pretending to get closer to Lipinski.
Weir’s voice suddenly changes to a deep, gruff tone and he explains, “This is my voice. Do you think I actually talk like that? That’s just something I do to get the skater chicks.”
Born in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, Weir trained for his first Olympics in Delaware and has had a connection with the state ever since.
With Weir training in Wilmington and a new home in Greenville, the fashionable star can regularly be spotted in Northern Delaware, eating at his favorite restaurants or shopping around town.
“Delaware has been a major part of my life,” Weir says. “I am a true citizen of the world, but it is wonderful to have someplace quiet to come home to where I don’t have to shave or wear a sparkly blazer.
“My quiet country lifestyle is just the balance I need to keep up with my hectic work life.”
Information from: The News Journal of Wilmington, Del., http://www.delawareonline.com